Enjoy the Preserved Beauty of Michigan’s National Parks

Throughout 2016, the National Park Service is celebrating its 100-year anniversary, and are encouraging people to venture out and find their park! In honor of Earth Day on Friday, April 22, here are a few ways in which Michigan’s 7 National Park units are working to preserve native plants and wildlife.

Protecting Nature

While Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes may be best known for its sloping, perched dunes rising majestically above Lake Michigan, there are many life forms of flora and fauna nestled comfortably within the park’s boundaries.

Sleeping Bear actively monitors the Great Lakes Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus), which is an endangered species of shoebird that appears at the park from early April to mid-August. They are sand-colored on the back and white below. During the breeding season adults have a black forehead band between the eyes and a single black band around the neck. (Its larger relative the killdeer is commonly seen at parks, playgrounds, and golf courses, and has two dark bands around the neck.) Piping plovers nest only on beaches and prefer beaches with gravel.

Attaching a ankle tag to a young Piping Plover, Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Piping plovers remain at Sleeping Bear through the summer months to nest and raise their young. In mid-July the females begin forming flocks and migrating south, leaving their mates to watch over the chicks until they learn to fly.

As for its native plantlife, Sleeping Bear Dunes is a part of The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). The GLRI goals of Sleeping Bear Dunes include:

  • Restoring habitat to protect native species
  • Preventing and controlling invasive species
  • Education and outreach
  • Studying avian botulism outbreaks

Sleeping Bear also works hand-in-hand with its NPS neighbor to north, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to identify beech bark disease resistant trees for future restoration efforts. They also are working on an aquatic invasive species citizen science program for early detection and evaluating Eurasian watermilfoil (an invasive aquatic plant species) management using native beetles.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

These efforts among others help to preserve the sprawling natural beauty of Sleeping Bear Dunes which has become a destination spot for generations of Michigan families. Visitors to Sleeping Bear Dunes can enjoy touring the inland lakes via canoe, hiking one of the park’s many trails, or visiting the Manitou Islands for bird watching, wildlife viewing and enjoying nature at its very best.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NPS and highlight the value of national parks as our nation’s “living laboratories,” the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is hosting a series of public talks called “Research Rendezvous” by park researchers in 2016. Visit NPS.gov for the current schedule of upcoming talks.

Being a responsible park visitor

National Park Service rangers and other stewardship employees work hard to preserve beauty in its most pure and natural form at all NPS sites. But they also need your help to be aware and responsible when visiting one of these pristine areas.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which was recently featured in the national IMAX release of “National Parks Adventure,” has some tips for park visitors that will protect the park’s natural resources, enhance your park experience and keep you and your family safe. Here is what visitors should know when preparing to visit a National Park:

  • Please don’t litter – pack it in and pack it out
  • Stay on developed trails, especially during early spring wet season blooming times
  • If you use the woods for relief, please follow BURY IT ethics: 2-4 inches deep hole into the duff and cover, including the waste paper

In celebration of the NPS Centennial, Pictured Rocks will be participating in a series of programs built around natural conservation and inspiring a new generation of park stewards by partnering with the Every Kid in a Park Program – sponsored by the National Park Foundation, the White House and Federal Land Management Agencies. Every Kid in a Park, or EKIP, encourages 4th-graders to visit any federally reserved land or water such as a National Park, forest refuge or wildlife reserve.

Melissa O’Donnell, Education Specialist for Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore/Hiawatha National Forest, will kick off the  Every Kid in a Park program by visiting 6 of the 12 schools awarded a free field trip to the park, from a National Park Foundation grant. Over 160 students will learn about federal lands and waters, why they are important, and what to know during a series of field trips in May.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

Urban Preservation

Just as important as protection of our trails, streams and plant life, cultural and historical preservation in urban settings stands as an important pillar in the NPS Centennial as those in the “Millenial” generation are moving away from the suburbs and into the city.

The city of Detroit has a rich history and through recent preservation and interpretation efforts, many of the sites that weave the storied tapestry of the region are being safeguarded for future generations.

As part of the Every Kid in a Park program, the MotorCities National Heritage Area – an affiliate of the National Park Service, that preserves and promotes automotive heritage in southeast Michigan – is working with the National Park Service’s Urban Agenda to educate Detroit students about an important piece of the city’s history in historic Fort Wayne.

Photo Courtesy of Austen Smith

MotorCities National Heritage Area in conjunction with the Detroit Historical Society, Michigan Historic Preservation Network, Preservation Detroit and the State Historic Preservation Office will be leading an interactive experience in which 4th-graders will learn about local history through a “grab bag” of historical items. Students will have to guess the origin of the item and what it does while talking with knowledgeable proctors.

This and much more will be happening during a special event from May 31 to June 3 at historic Fort Wayne.

This educational outreach program is just one way in which the MotorCities preserves and promotes the automotive and labor history and how our story in southeast Michigan impacted the state, the nation and he world.

Learn more about these and other Centennial happenings at: nps.gov and findyourpark.com.

Austen Smith is the Communications Coordinator for the MotorCities National Heritage Area. He can be reached at asmith@motorcities.org.

21 Ways to Make an Environmental Difference in Pure Michigan

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Happy Earth Day! In honor of everything that’s being done to keep Pure Michigan beautiful, guest blogger Kerrin O’Brien from the Michigan Recycling Coalition shares a a list of things everyone can do to keep our state environmentally clean.

How many of these tips do you often keep in mind?

Earth Day provides us with an important reminder that recycling has become a critical foundation for environmental action. As the warm spring sun shines on Michigan, it is a day to celebrate the beauty found across the state and to remember that our vibrant and sustainable economy is dependent on upon a healthy and productive environment.we all can do to help keep the Great Lakes State clean.

While recycling has become universal with positive environmental action, it’s not easily accessible for all Michigan residents and businesses. There are economic and environmental benefits to capturing and utilizing the more than 4 million tons of waste that we put in Michigan landfills each year. But, Michiganders must rely on their communities, businesses and organizations to provide them with opportunities to recycle and ultimately contribute to a healthy state.

If you do have a rolling recycling cart to wheel out to your curb on a weekly or bi-weekly basis, you are well-served. Learning as much as you can about your program is not only good for the environment,  it can actually save you money. Find out what’s happening in your neck of the woods. Inquire about municipal services or subscription-based services with your hauler. Recycling is gaining traction as a valued public service and you can add your voice to the choir to ask for even better services.

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An easy way to contribute to a healthy environment and economy is to make recycling a priority in your business and home. What does Earth Day mean to you? A day to enjoy the outdoors? A day to take action against

There are also a variety of other ways to make a difference. Here are 22 ways you can make a difference!waste? A reminder of the importance of conservation?

  • 1. Turn off the water while brushing teeth and shaving
  • 2. Go Vegetarian for one day of every week
  • 3. Try to cut two minutes off of your daily shower
  • 4. Buy food, clothing and other items that are locally produced
  • 5. Adjust your thermostat to be 1-3 degrees lower for the day- each degree can save up to 10% in energy costs!
  • 6. Check that your car’s tires are properly inflated and air filters are clean. Maintaining your car means less used parts in a landfill.
  • 7. Get unsubscribed from constant junk mail that gets tossed away
  • 8. Bring your own reusable bags for shopping and pack your lunch in reused glass or plastic containers
  • 9. Bring your own reusable mug/bottle/cup or start a  BYOC (bring your own cup) initiative at your office
  • 10. Challenge yourself by air drying an entire load of laundry or washing with cold- warm water instead of hot
  • 11. Writing Action Day – Look at the things you use every day or buy often, are those companies using recyclable packaging? Are they using too much packaging? Or at the end of that products life are you able to dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way? If not,  let them know that as a loyal buyer of that product that you care about the end life and recyclability of those objects- write them a letter, go on their website or social media and let them know!
  • 12. Donate items, time or money – Old clothes, electronics and other household objects can often be reused or re-purposed in unique way
  • 13. Unplug everything – Maybe it’s your toaster, T.V., Cellphone charger or even cellphone
  • 14. Unplug yourself. Grab a board game, go on a walk, sports, read book or have a scavenger hunt!
  • 15. Dust the coils underneath or on the back side of the fridge
  • 16. Learn more about organic produce and plant vegetables in your yard
  • 17. Take the bus, ride a bike, carpool, or walk to one of your destinations or daily commute
  • 18. Get to know where you can reuse or recycle almost everything in your community
  • 19. Use less paper. Cloth napkins, e-tickets
  • 20. Use the stairs, open the door manually, open the door for someone else manually! Use a hand can opener, stapler, etc. Whatever could be done without electricity try it out, rake your leaves or yard clippings instead of using a leaf blower, go for a run outside instead of the treadmill
  • 21. Get educated- maybe there is an environmental issue you don’t know all the facts on- today get educated on something you care about

kobrienKerrin O’Brien has worked with the Michigan Recycling Coalition in a variety of capacities since 1993. In addition to managing the organization, her interest lies in building consensus and movement around pro-recycling policies that work for both the public and private sector. As a nonprofit development specialist and facilitator, Kerrin has led many nonprofit organizations through strategic planning and development efforts. She holds a Social Science bachelor from Michigan State University and has completed ICL’s Executive Director Development Program.

From Our Community: 10 Outstanding Photos of Our Beautiful Michigan Earth

In honor of Earth Day earlier this week, we asked our fans on Facebook and Twitter to share their photos of our beautiful Michigan earth. From flowering fields to singing streams and sandy shores, we were in awe of all the wonderful submissions!

What better way to showcase Michigan’s natural beauty than create a roundup of a few of our favorites. Here are ten outstanding photos from our fans to commemorate Earth Day 2014 and our beautiful Michigan earth. 

For more fan photos, visit our Flickr page or follow us on Instagram @PureMichigan

A crystal clear day at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Photo by Facebook Fan Marilyn Ang Cassell.

Pcitred Rocks National Lakeshore Marilyn Ang Cassell

Sugarloaf Lake near Schoolcraft. Photo by Facebook Fan MichiganPhyl Campbell Matteson.

MichiganPhyl Campbell Matteson Sugarloaf Lake Schoolcraft

Great view of the Mackinac Bridge. Photo by Facebook Fan Mandy Huff.

Mandy Huff Mackinac Bridge

Morning Hike on Isle Royale. Photo by Facebook Fan Lorentyna Baldus Harkness.

Lorentyna Baldus Harkness Isle Royale

Green trees and flowing falls in Munising, MI. Photo by Facebook Fan Kathryn Lund Johnson Nature Photography.

Kathryn Lund Johnson Nature photography Munising falls

Aquamarine waters at Arcadia Beach. Photo by Facebook Fan Karen Sue Packer.

karen sue packer arcadia beach

Sandy Sleeping Bear Dunes. Photo by Facebook Fan Jill Schultz.

Jill schultz sleeping bear dunesColorful Tulips in Holland, MI. Photo by Facebook Fan Gayle Unger Cooper.

Gayle Unger Cooper Tulip Time 2013

Rainbow along the Black River near Ironwood, MI. Photo by Facebook Fan Gary Jackson.

Gary Jackson Black River near Ironwood MI

Sunset over Ludington Beach. Photo by Facebook Fan Gabe Newkirk-Burkholder.

Gabe Newkirk-Burkholder ludington beach

Did you celebrate Earth Day this week? Let us know what you did!